Turkey, NATO and Biden

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A recent article in the WSJ coauthored by former senator Joe Liebermann, addressed the matter. Here I add my thoughts.
Recep Erdogan, Turkey’s president, has been in power for years but could not get his nation into the European Union. His governing style has not measured up to their standards. But now that Finland and Sweden have asked to be part of NATO, he has become the one party in the entire organization to block the two nations’ desires.
Erdogan has not applied the sanctions against Russia most of the EU – except for Hungary – have enforced. Yet he likes to see himself as a mediator that could deliver the deal that will put an end to the war.
He won’t.
As an autocrat, convinced that he should reign in Turkey until his death, he shares much with Putin. So he has no clue as to what freedom is.
He was useful to the EU in stemming the flow of Syrian refugees at the start of that nation’s civil war and got paid for it. Yet, now and then, he threatens to open the borders and let everyone through. Which puts the burden on the EU to find better solutions.
One of Erdogan’s objections to Finland and Sweden’s bid to join NATO, is that there are Kurdish terrorist groups in both countries who are enemies of his regime.
That is a good point. Why should any NATO nation host any terrorist group against another member nation?
But does Erdogan and Turkey bear responsibility for creating the conditions that led to the formation of such groups?
Turkey has a troubled history dealing with adversaries. At the start of WWI they killed thousands of Armenians, which president Biden, in 2021, on the 106th anniversary of the massacre, pronounced a genocide.
The Kurds have been American allies in the war against ISIS in Syria, and that must be recognized.
Still, support for any terrorist organization is a bad idea.
Erdogan not only wants the Kurdish groups in Finland and Sweden expelled, but also wants to be allowed to buy American planes, a deal that has been held back because a few years ago, against NATO’s wishes, Turkey purchased a Russian missile system which raised concerns that sensitive information from the aircraft would end up in Russia’s hands.
In spite of all of this, Turkey’s membership in NATO has continued.
But now the invasion of Ukraine and the strong response of the West has changed everything.
Erdogan never imagined that Biden and Europe would pull together into a solid bloc, except for Hungary.
Russia’s atrocious invasion and disregard for human life have created a new power alignment.
Finland and Sweden want to join it, but Turkey says no unless their conditions are met.
However, in this new power alignment, as in any other, priorities are needed. And while Turkey’s concern about terrorist groups deserves full attention, it should not be enough to block Finland and Sweden’s admission.
Turkey’s history of silencing the opposition is not compatible with a democracy. Thus, I agree with the view that it should not have the privilege of barring democracies from joining and expanding NATO.

Oscar Valdes oscarvaldes.net, medium.com, anchor.fm, buzzsprout, apple and google podcasts

The War and the Language of Emotions

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The massive loss of life that Putin has unleashed has its roots in a set of emotional perceptions.
Yet I am almost sure, that none of the heads of state who have attempted to mediate with the Russian, have asked him, ‘why are you afraid?’ or ‘are you envious of the West?’
Putin would deny he was.
Acknowledging our emotions is not easy but the cost of not doing so is enormous.
Putin has said that NATO is threatening Russia although NATO’s reason for being is to protect against Russian attacks. And there have been plenty of those.
It was Russia, or the Soviet Union before it, that invaded Ukraine in 2014 (annexing Crimea), Georgia in 2008, Chechnya in the 1990s and again in the first decade of this century, Czechoslovakia in 1968, Hungary in 1956.
To justify the present invasion, Putin has insisted that Ukraine is a threat to him and to Russia.
He did not have the personal strength to say, ‘I am afraid that if Ukrainians leave my world and take up the customs of the West – with their ways of thinking and behaving – they will set a bad example for all the peoples I have intimidated into submission. And because I am afraid, I must kill the wayward Ukrainians.’
But what is there to be afraid of?
Freedom is central to the language of emotions.
If there is no freedom or if it is restricted, so are the emotions we can express.
We read, go to the theatre, watch movies, so we can see other ranges of emotional expression and help expand ours.
Under political repression, only the outward expression of emotions and ideas are restricted. Inside our minds we can still think and feel what we wish. But over time, the restricted possibilities of outward expression end up constricting our thoughts and feelings.
Fear does that. And so life is diminished and devalued.
Which is how autocrats and dictators rule.
It is happening In Russia, in China, in Myanmar, in Cuba, Venezuela, Nicaragua, Egypt. They restrict the freedom of others so those doing the intimidation can have more privileges than the rest.
Restriction of freedom leads to the narrowing of our emotional world.
The fact that Putin rules Russia and its subordinate territories (the word nation does not currently fit Belarus) does not mean that he is doing so with the consent of the people. If there isn’t freedom of expression in a nation, then such rule lacks legitimacy.
Legitimacy is not earned by force of arms or intimidation.
Thus, Putin is not the legitimate leader of Russia.
Instead, he is the expression of a people who has lost its voice and so become emotionally crippled because of not exercising their political freedoms.
I predict that soon there will be a revolution in Russia. There will be because of the following:
One – Russians are an educated and capable people who, in comparison to the rest of the world, are underperforming. They know it and it hurts.
Two – the incongruency between their level of sophistication and the brutality they’re being asked to carry out in Ukraine is too large.
Three – they will come to acknowledge that their political passivity is what made possible a despot like Putin.
Four – Russians will recognize that they allowed Putin to numb their emotional world and so gave themselves permission to live in fear of the tyrant.
The wholesale destruction of lives and property currently under way in Ukraine, is happening in a world that is the most interconnected there has ever been.
Everything is on display. Nothing can be hidden that won’t surface shortly thereafter.
In consequence, our emotions are heightened.
Such richness is essential to freedom.
Putin can hide from Russians the atrocities in Ukraine for only so long.
Soon enough, all the details of the carnage will be known to everyone.
And then Russians will come to accept that, in their passivity, they became Putin’s accomplices.
Which is why they will revolt.
With the continued support of the West, and Russians’ challenge of Putin from within, Ukraine will push Russia out of their territory.
And the two nations will be good neighbors and prosper.
In this day, when talks of mediation between warrying parties take place, the matter of freedom should be on the table.

Oscar Valdes oscarvaldes.net, medium.com, anchor.fm, buzzsprout, apple and google podcasts

Zelensky, Trump and Biden

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It wasn’t that long ago that Trump, while president, was suspected of putting pressure on Volodymyr Zelensky, Ukraine’s leader, to provide information on Biden’s son Hunter, who had held a senior position in a Ukrainian energy company. Trump was suspected of dangling before Zelensky, the promise of arms shipments, so Ukraine could hold off the better armed Russian separatists in the Donbas area – a fight being waged since Putin’s first invasion of Ukraine in 2014, when he annexed Crimea.
The matter led to the first impeachment of Trump.
Trump had feared, correctly, that Biden would end up being his adversary in the 2020 elections and he wanted something he could hold against him.
It wasn’t long ago either, that in a television show, Biden was asked by the host, ‘Do you think Putin is a killer?’ And Biden answered, ‘He’s a killer.’
Contrast that response with the one Trump gave to a reporter on July 16th 2018, in Helsinki, Finland, when asked about Russian interference in the US elections in 2016.
Reporter Jonathan Lemire asked, ‘Every US intelligence has concluded that Russia did (interfere). Who do you believe? Would you now, with the whole world watching, tell president Putin… would you denounce what happened in 2016, and would you warn him to never do it again.’
To which Trump answered, as Putin stood a few feet away behind another lectern,
‘My people came to me, Dan Coats came to me and others, they said they think it’s Russia… I have president Putin… he just said it’s not Russia. I will say this… I don’t see any reason why it would be… I have confidence in both parties… I have great confidence in my intelligence people… but I will tell you that president Putin was extremely strong in his denial today.’
(Questions and answers as reported by the New York Times and The Washington Post)
Ah, yes, the beauty of previously recorded statements. You can’t hide from them.
So much has happened since then, and so much has made clear that Trump didn’t have a clue as to who Putin is.
Putin played him.
The majority of the American people saw the dysfunction, and in November 2020, chose Biden as president by a comfortable majority. It took Democrats and enlightened Republicans to put Biden in the White House.
But Trump still couldn’t believe it, so he egged on his faithful into the abhorrent assault on the Capitol on Jan 6th 2021, and on democracy itself, claiming the election had been stolen from him.
It led to a second impeachment, which also failed, given the slavish followers he still keeps in Congress.
In a short period of time, Volodymyr Zelensky has become an admired world figure while Trump’s image has tarnished and is fast eroding. And yet he still has Senators and Representatives begging for his endorsement.
But where would we be if Trump had been reelected?
Putin would have invaded Ukraine and taken it over completely. Putin might have had the audacity to invite Trump to his coronation in Kyiv.
There would have been no strong American leadership to unite the West in opposing Putin and
no arms shipments would have flowed to the Ukrainian resistance.
Fox News would have carried on about how far away those people are, and that Russia needs their sphere of influence, and what business is it of ours, anyway.
Brave Ukraine would still have resisted but they would have been slaughtered.
China would have nodded in approval and accelerated their plans to invade Taiwan, since it had become clear that America had lost its nerve.
And the world would not be what it is today.
Knowledge of character matters. Clear eyed leadership matters. Building alliances make a difference.
Because Biden and his team, saw through Putin, he was not fooled by the Russian.
His leadership of the West is now ushering in a new era.
Ukraine’s heroic resistance, with the support of the West, have exposed Russia’s military flaws.
The prospect of Russia’s defeat in this war is now more likely than ever.
Ukraine will be rebuilt, become a sterling example of democracy and a member of the EU and NATO.
Russians will have to reexamine why they supported a despot for as long as they did.
And yet, here at home, despite Biden’s extraordinary triumph in the world arena, the democratic party is expected to lose the mid term elections this November. Go figure.
Inflation and immigration are touted as the main reasons.
Republicans are rushing to blame inflation on Biden, saying that the covid assistance he provided was too large and arguing that inflation will not be tamed anytime soon.
I disagree. Inflation was inevitable, considering the dimensions of the pandemic. And I don’t think it will dampen growth significantly or for as long as others predict.
Meanwhile, our status in the world has jumped and with that comes an economic boost.
As to immigration, it has been a recurring issue in our nation. Its benefits are clear to most of us. Keeping ourselves open to the world is essential. The task ahead is to empower Americans who feel they’re being left behind. And the only way to do that is to motivate and assist them in becoming more productive and to earn more.
The war in Europe will likely be over by the end of the year if not before and I’m betting the West will win.
It will be a great triumph.
Biden and the democrats need to sell it to the voters because it is a remarkable accomplishment.
The fact that the majority in the Republican party continues to praise Donald Trump, is a sign of how destructive blind following is.
Holding on to the House and Senate in November is still possible.
And Biden and the democrats deserve a victory.

Oscar Valdes oscarvaldes.net, medium.com, anchor.fm, buzzsprout, apple and google podcasts

Mariupol. Alive in Their Tomb

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The video they posted is sad and alarming. Under a dim light, a group of children looked straight into the camera, and spoke of how they wanted to see the sunshine again. Their eyes wide open – their expression signaling quiet resignation – they pled for help without saying the word.
Some have been trapped under the steel plant of the port city for six weeks while Russian bombs keep falling on the structure. Their living space is likely to crumble any moment, burying them all.
Russian forces in control of the city have demanded their surrender but the trapped Ukrainians fear for their lives if they fall into their hands. Instead, they have asked the world to help create a human corridor to allow them to exit to a third party country.
A mother spoke of how they were running out of food, the despair evident in her voice, and one could feel the weight of her regret. Why had she sought shelter there, instead of elsewhere? Why had she led her family into what is becoming their tomb.
The UN’s general secretary has advocated for the human corridor but there they remain.
I suppose Putin may be waiting to extract some concession for sparing their lives.
And if he doesn’t, then those men, women and children, defiant till the end, will be buried alive, a testament to a man’s cruelty.
How was it that Russians gave so much power to a man?
Gradually. Day after day. Slowly.
You can read this but not that, came the instruction. You can see this but not that, said the next. And fear slipped in making it easier to praise than to criticize.

Soon enough, a government official comes knocking on the door. ‘We need your son and your daughter.’
‘Why?’ said their mother.
‘We have a special military operation to Ukraine. Fighting for the good of Russia.’
And the woman’s heart cringes. ‘For the good of Russia?’
‘What will they be doing?’
‘Building a greater Russia.’
‘Will they come back?’ asks the mother, the plaintive tone already in her voice.
‘Hard to say at this time. But the decadent West is supporting a Nazi government in Ukraine and we have to make sacrifices.’
‘Who says so?’
‘Could he be wrong?’
‘No. Putin is never wrong.’
‘I used to have friends in Ukraine…’ laments the woman.
‘Where?’ asks the government official.
‘In Mariupol, by the Sea of Azov and the Black Sea. Lovely place.’
‘It is no more, madam… the city has been destroyed.’
‘It was filled with fascists, financed by the West, plotting to harm us.’
‘They had a big steel plant, right by the water…’
‘It is no more.’
‘Sorry to hear that,’ says the woman as she looks off.
‘Where are your son and daughter?’
‘They went out on an errand. They will be back later this afternoon.’
The official takes a card out of his pocket and hands it to the woman.
‘Tell them to call me as soon as they get back.’
‘I will.’
The official gives the woman a hard look. ‘I need to hear from them today.’
‘Of course.’
‘It’s a direct order from Putin.’
‘I understand.’
‘You will be punished if they don’t call me.’
‘I will make sure they call you. I’ll dial the phone myself.’
The official narrows his eyes, now suspicious of the woman.
‘Do not fail. This is your patriotic duty.’
The official steps back, turns to go out the door as he glances back over his shoulder.

Hours later, both son and daughter return. Their mother relates the details of the official’s visit.
The son and daughter, both eligible for serving in the armed forces, look at each other.
‘Mother,’ starts the daughter, ‘We have seen videos of what’s happening in Ukraine.’
Her mother looks back at her, suspecting the worst.
‘It’s horrible. We cannot go there. We should leave.’
‘Leave the country?’
‘Where will you go?’
‘You remember Olga?’
‘The dentist?’
‘Yes. She’s now living in St Petersburg. I called her. She told us she can take us near the border with Finland… and from there we can take our chances.’
‘It will be dangerous.’
‘We know, mother.’
‘You’re all I have.’
‘We’ll be fine.’
‘When will you be leaving?’
‘Right now.’
Mother lowers her head as her eyes grow misty. Then she looks up at them again.
‘I wonder… if I had spoken up earlier…’
They sit next to her, one on each side, and put their arms around her.
‘We shall return,’ says her son, reassuringly.
And both son and daughter smile at her.

Oscar Valdes oscarvaldes.net, medium.com, anchor.fm, buzzsprout, apple and google podcasts

Russia Threatens Nuclear War

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This threat has been made often since the start of the invasion, with Putin arguing that the West is using Ukraine as a proxy against him and his people.
But it is Putin and Russia, who in assaulting Ukraine, are assaulting the West.
If Ukraine had meekly said, ‘Oh yes, we really want to be like Russians, we love how you live, how you bow daily to your great leader, so go ahead Putin, we gladly surrender to you, too,’ then we wouldn’t be having this problem.
But they did not.
Instead, Ukrainians have sacrificed thousands of lives, endured immense destruction of what they have built, all for the sake of a future different than life under the Russian boot.
Russia, except for those who have had the courage of dissenting, has become a symbol of brutality to the world.
Whatever your contributions to the world, they now pale next to the pain and suffering you are willfully inflicting on others.
How can you erase that from the conscience of our civilization?
You cannot. And so it becomes your curse. Russia’s curse.
If Putin or his foreign minister or whatever other stooge, repeats the threat that they may be forced to use nuclear weapons if the West continues to arm Ukraine, then we will deal with it.
Because giving in to Russia in Ukraine is giving in to Russia anywhere.
So the threat to use nuclear weapons becomes worthless.
Knowing the intensity of Russia’s cruelty is good enough for us. We see it every day.
We know you are capable of anything and that you don’t give a damn.
We know you will fire those nuclear weapons and kill hundreds of thousands of people.
All of Russia, exception made of those who have had the courage to dissent, are now part of an assault on the West and the rest of the world.
Somehow, you, along with the Chinese, have come to believe that you are a gift to the rest of us.
You are not. We have no desire to be like you. You are an example to no one.
If you want the war to stop, you need to pull back into your territory. Rest assured that we will not go after you.
But if you don’t, we will keep arming Ukraine, and whoever else is willing to resist you.
And we will provide better weapons, even start sending planes, whatever it takes to defeat you.
Because we don’t think your brutality will ever stop. It appears to not be in you to do so.
The rest of the world will have to learn how to live without your oil and gas and other commodities. So we will invent. We will create.
By now we know that if we give up in Ukraine, we will give up in Poland, or in Rumania or in Finland or Sweden or wherever else.
So go ahead and make all the threats you want.
We are ready for them. For we will keep arming Ukraine until we win this war.

Oscar Valdes oscarvaldes.net, medium.com, anchor.fm, buzzsprout, apple and google podcasts

Ukraine Can Win!

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What seemed unthinkable at the start of this war, is now gathering strength. The distinct possibility that Ukraine can push back Russia and win the war.
While Russia keeps lying to their people about the war, in the West, nations are coming together in support of the heroic behavior of the Ukrainian people.
Volodymyr Zelensky, their president, has been untiring in his efforts to reach out to others soliciting support for the war effort.
Russia, meanwhile, has seen many of their people leave the country and has now summoned the help of Syrian mercenaries to help with their invasion.
The widespread killing of civilians at the hands of Russian soldiers is now a daily occurrence.
None of which appears to disturb the mind of Putin.
But let us not be fooled. Putin is afraid. Afraid that his forces are weaker than he thought, afraid that his troops lack the will to persevere in the conquest of Ukraine, afraid that fellow Russians will revolt against him, afraid that his flawed belief system and the lies he’s used to fool his people are now being exposed.
How long can he keep up the farce?
Not long.

Meanwhile, the West is coming together in realizing the enormous benefits of a Ukrainian victory, i.e, a profound shift in the political alignment of the world.
Every effort we now make will make a difference.
Putin has begun to retreat and will likely become dependent on China, a nation showing its true colors in its aversion for democracy and the suppression of free speech.
Ukraine is on the vanguard of the contest between East and West.
In their determination to not bow to Russian oppression they have become a shining symbol of what needs to be done to defend our liberties, and as such deserve our full cooperation.
Their valor calls for all of us to make sacrifices in the defense and affirmation of our values.
Circumstances have thrust them into the center of a battle that had been fought more quietly.
Now it is fully in the open.
China is an ally of Russia. It is an enemy of America and the West. It wants to use whatever the West can offer to gain further power and then turn around and use it against us.
We, in the West, do not need China.
We will not lose the hope that the Chinese people can one day rise, just as Ukrainians are now doing, and defeat their oppressive leadership and the lies they now tell.
The Chinese leadership are no strangers to inflicting mass cruelty on their people, such as was carried out during the Cultural revolution under Mao Zedong in the 60s and is presently the case in their suppression of the Uyghur minority in Xinjiang province.
Ukraine is now the battleground for freedom in our world.
Let us support them with all we can.

Oscar Valdes oscarvaldes.net, medium.com, anchor.fm, buzzsprout, apple and google podcasts.

Imagining Ways to Arm Ukraine

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The Russo-Ukrainian war signals a turning point in the establishing of a new world order.
In the face of atrocities, sacrifices must be made and people and nations need to take sides.
Fence sitting won’t do.
Not only are foreign volunteers stepping in to join Ukraine’s forces, but people from Belarus, Ukraine’s neighbor to the north, are now contributing to the effort. They have suffered the Russian oppression, as when their puppet president rigged the 2020 elections in his favor and then asked Putin to help him squash the protests that followed.
Even invading Russian soldiers who have defected are now part of the Ukrainian resistance.
The West is solidifying in its support of sanctions being imposed.
Today the American senate unanimously approved removing from Russia and Belarus their most favored nation trade designation which then allows us to raise tariffs against their imports. The senate also backed the oil ban.

Now how can we get more arms to the Ukrainians?
Russian forces are shifting emphasis to the eastern region to consolidate gains and regroup. But their intent is to take over all of Ukraine.
Standing in their way is the fierce resistance of the Ukrainian army and the heroic support of their people.
They need arms.
We also understand the importance of limits to what we can do.
As Putin is pushed back he is more likely to resort to both strategic and tactical nuclear weapons to use against the Ukrainian people.
We cannot give him a reason to do so and draw us into nuclear confrontation which may lead to devastating consequences.
But we can find ways to smuggle in arms that could be assembled in Ukraine. Say, take a large weapon, break it down into sections, smuggle it in through the western border, then let Ukrainians assemble it and put it to work.
Maybe this could be done with those MIG jets that Poland was willing to donate. The advantage being that Ukrainians pilots are familiar with them.
Having additional planes at their disposal could be a game changer.
Meanwhile, China stands on the sidelines, unable to call an atrocity an atrocity, and certainly willing to help Putin escape the brunt of the economic sanctions.
India’s leadership, too, has decided to do the fence sitting, never mind all the assistance they have got from the west.
The world is dividing.
Ukraine has veered West.
They need all our help. Right now.

Oscar Valdes oscarvaldes.net medium.com, anchor.fm, buzzsprout, apple and google podcasts.

Putin:’God is with Me!’

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He is in his bunker somewhere near Moscow. Various video monitors mounted on the wall are showing footage of the damage done by the attack of two Ukrainian helicopters on Belgorod, Russian territory located just north of Kharkiv.
‘They attacked Russian soil! How dare they!’
The video shows several oil tanks in flames.
‘Attacking my land, my sacred grounds!’
Putin trembles in his rage.
‘What happened to our air defenses? How was this possible? If they did it once, they will do it again!’
He is standing in front of his desk, looking in disbelief at the video of the attack being replayed.
‘Zelensky will pay for this. Once I capture him, because I will do that, I will put him on trial. And he will pay. The world will be clamoring for me to be merciful but I will not.’
Putin slams his fist on the table.
‘What the hell happened to my army? I’ve spent years and years building it up and now they don’t deliver. Who is responsible? I’m having to call up more and more men for military service. I’m having to ask Syrian fighters to join in to kill Ukrainians. I’m having to call up the Wagner group too.’
He shakes his head slowly as he looks down at the table.
‘It doesn’t look good… me… Vladimir Putin… asking Assad for help.’
He rubs his face.

‘Will I even conquer all of Ukraine? How can I live with myself with less than total control over it?’
He sits down, the mood despondent.
‘I was wrong… instead of riding victorious into Kyiv… instead of people calling my name in adoration… throwing flowers at my armored limousine, I’m now looking at the possibility of having to negotiate a peace treaty. With a comedian! Me, a great political leader! Oh, the irony of it all. What a twist of fate!’
He leans forward in his chair, clasping his hands, the anger palpable and a growing sense of self reproach.
‘It’s the fault of the Americans. Yes… Biden. Him. And I made too much of Trump… thinking that he represented America… thinking that he was the epitome of their decline… that the January 6th assault on the capitol was a clear sign they were rotten to the core… weak… morally dissolute… reveling in vice.’

He stands abruptly and walks a few paces then stops for a moment. Something is deeply wrong. He returns to his desk, presses a button on a console and images of him addressing a crowd of adoring fans at a stadium in Moscow appear on the screens.
The sight eases his tension as if hope had returned.
‘No. I’m okay. I’m all right. They still love me. God has not abandoned me. God is with me. And I will redouble my efforts. I will conquer all of Ukraine. And I will force the West to take my rubles for our oil.’
He laughs loudly, feeling victorious.
‘That was a great strategy of mine. How I made Europe dependent on our oil and gas. How I made them kneel for it. Brilliant.’

But his expression now turns somber.
‘Can I recover…? In the eyes of the world… can I redeem myself? In the eyes of China, can I, once again, look strong?’
He shakes his head slowly… in disbelief… as if acknowledging the loss.
‘Is this the beginning of my end… with the whole world watching? No… it can’t be.’
He reaches for the console and switches back on images of his troops and tanks riding into Ukraine on February 24th, the first day of the invasion.
He smiles with relief.
‘There it is… my power… Russia’s power… it’s not gone… I see it… the fullness of my power… everybody sees it… I know it’s still there… it’s not gone away… it’s there… yes… it’s not over… it can’t be… I still have a hand to play… Putin is not gone…’
But he hesitates. Doubtful.
‘If it’s gone… really gone… then… I can still… yes…’
He turns around, away from the cameras, hands clenched into fists.
‘America will not defeat me. They will not. We will both go down in flames… and just who will stop me?’

Oscar Valdes Oscarvaldes.net, medium.com, anchor.fm, buzzsprout, apple and google podcasts.

Straight Talk: Biden and Putin

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A few days ago Mr Biden stated, at the end of a speech in Warsaw, that Putin ‘cannot remain in power.’ The statement set off a flurry of commentary, some of which held that he was calling for regime change in Russia. The White House promptly clarified that was not the case.
The Kremlin dismissed the statement.
Mr Biden has called Putin a war criminal. I believe he may have said, also, that the man was a murderer.
Mr Macron, France’s president, quickly put in that saying those things interfered with diplomacy.
But I don’t think so.

All those things Mr Biden has said are true. Putin has targeted residential buildings, schools, theaters, hospitals, people in the streets, women, children. If that doesn’t make him a war criminal, then what does?
He has unleashed his cruelty without provocation. In his defense, he’s told us that he and his beloved Russia are being threatened by Ukraine. Not threatened with weapons but by their desire to emancipate.
It doesn’t take much to threaten Putin. A country next door willing to exercise its right to sovereignty and lean to the West was too much of a provocation. For Putin to sleep well at night, Ukraine needed to continue to live under the shadow of Russia. Under his boot.
But Ukrainians had enough of it and they mounted a fierce resistance that has unified the West. From now on, in our hearts and minds, Ukraine is part of the West.

What troubles Putin is that the rebellious nation is so close to Moscow. And their show of defiance is likely contagious. Other territories under his boot, may want to go their own way.
And so he felt a need to be cruel. To set an example. To oppress. To squash other human beings into submission. The more blood the better.
Mr Biden had finished speaking with refugees from Ukraine when he made his speech in Warsaw. He was obviously moved by their pain, he told us himself. And so he responded, acknowledging their suffering.
Putin, on the other hand, carries on as if it was just another day.
But something is brewing under the surface. He knows his status in the world has been seriously diminished. Young Russians are leaving their land. Slowly, his authority is eroding, and it is doing so because of his inhumanity.

We’re all vulnerable to slide into acts of cruelty. More so if we choose to isolate ourselves. Which is what Putin has done. He’s a one man show in Russia. Everybody else must dance to his tune. Alexei Navalny, a prominent dissenter is now in jail for pointing out Putin’s flaws and just got his sentence extended. Opposition organizations are labelled terrorists and barred from civil discourse.
By contrast, Mr Biden is open to criticism. He may sometimes not like the criticism he gets but he knows he has to work with it. The laws of this country require that he do so. I believe he is open to feedback from his team, a team which quickly came to his aid when he said Putin ‘cannot remain in power.’ No, his team added, the President was not calling for regime change in Russia. And yet, we all knew, that in his heart, that’s exactly what he was doing.

We all understand that it is up to the Russians to depose Putin. But the rest of us, every single one of us, also have a right to join in with Mr Biden and say that he ‘cannot remain in power.’ We have such right because the images of the pain and suffering inflicted by Putin are clear to all of us.
And there may be more to come. In his desperation to push his boot onto the throats of Ukrainians, Putin may wish to use chemical or tactical nuclear weapons so he can finally overcome the courageous people fighting for their right to choose their own destiny.
Perhaps Mr Biden’s views of Putin will damage negotiations for an end to the war.
I don’t think so.
And if the two men were ever to meet again, I believe Mr Biden would sit across him and discuss whatever needed to be discussed. And if Putin were to ask, ‘do you think I’m a war criminal?’, Mr Biden would answer, ‘Yes, I do. You are a war criminal. A murderer. It is a matter of record. The whole world knows it. Now, let’s talk about what we have to talk.’

Oscar Valdes. Oscarvaldes.net, medium.com, anchor.fm, buzzsprout, apple and google podcasts

Mr Putin’s Fall Has Begun

Photo by Mathias P.R. Reding on Pexels.com

He thought it would be easy. Surround Ukraine with 200,000 soldiers, war planes, tanks and missiles, make threatening noises and gestures, and Ukrainians would look at each other and realize they had no chance. A nuclear superpower was demanding their surrender: give up their government and demilitarize. If not, they would be run over.

Accustomed to most Russians – not all – bowing to him and not protesting, Putin thought Ukrainians would respond the same way. After all, he had already taken Crimea from them in 2014, and they had been pushed back in the Donbas area.
Putin reasoned Ukrainians would be tired of war and would just stand by, perhaps even applaud as his troops rolled into Kyiv, unopposed.
He would then meet with their president, a former comedian, pat him on the back and put him on a bus to Poland.
There would be protests in the West but they would all calm down once they realized he could cut off their oil and gas supplies and hurt their pocketbooks.

But something different happened.
Ukrainians said, hell no! This is our land and we’ll defend it.
So Putin ordered the troops to move in, still hoping the sounds of the tanks and the roar of the jets would bring Ukrainians to their senses.
They did not.
What has followed has been an unbelievable story of courage and determination, with their president, Volodymyr Zelensky, committing to the task of leadership with great valor.
That amazing story has shaken the West out of their complacency and united them in support of Ukraine.

A divided EU-US alliance has found new vigor and a willingness to stand firm against the aggressor. Sanctions that were not enforced when Putin invaded Crimea, now had a devastating effect.
Just yesterday, Putin went on TV to tell Russians who still believe the story that Ukraine is a Nazi threat, to prepare for yet more hardships, as they contend with job losses, inflation and growing scarcities as a result of the sanctions.
Russia is now on the verge of defaulting on their debt.
The assets it holds in foreign banks, American and European, are frozen. They cannot be used to pay down Russia’s debt.

Putin spoke calmly, promising relief to his fellow Russians who believe they are on the right side of history.
But what I didn’t see in his expression was a trace of remorse.
The thousands of casualties, both Ukrainian and Russian, meant nothing to him.
The horror of the carnage doesn’t touch him.
He is, somehow, insulated from it.
Over 3 million Ukrainian refugees have fled to the West in search of safety – mothers with their children – while the men of fighting age stay behind to resist the barbaric Russian onslaught.
The thousands of dead and maimed don’t seem to weigh on Putin’s conscience.
How did that happen?

He first became prime minister in 1999 and has been in power ever since.
How is it possible that all the leaders he’s come in contact with over the years, didn’t get the essence of the man?
The ascent of Putin has been the failure of leadership in the West.
And the failure of the Russian people – not all – to not stand up against him.
But now the end is near.
The unceasing brutality he’s unleashed on Ukrainians has been seen by everybody, except Russians themselves, for they live in a censored bubble.
Where can he go hide?

China, in its remarkable denial of the extent of the savagery, has become his accomplice.
And Putin is counting on them to circumvent the sanctions.
But the West won’t be easily side stepped.
Putin has begun his fall but he remains a dangerous adversary.
Knowing that his end is near, he will not tolerate the defeat of his army and will resort to nuclear weapons if he thought it would spare him the embarrassment.
Will he fire a nuclear weapon on Kyiv? It is possible.
Will he fire several? He may.
Putin will not survive the scorn he has earned from the rest of humanity, but he may yet stay in power a while longer, until Russians choose to retire him.
The world is waiting.

Oscar Valdes oscarvaldes.net, medium.com, anchor.fm, buzzsprout, apple and google podcasts.